1. getlostwithme
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    getlostwithme Member

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    My plot is going nowhere

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by getlostwithme, Aug 29, 2016.

    So I started writing a story about a month ago and I have not been able to continue it since. Basically all I have is a really descriptive scenery and character description etc, but nothing has really HAPPENED yet. I really like what I wrote so far and I wish I could just leave it, but I feel like no one wants to read just a bunch of descriptions. Anyone have any development advice?
     
  2. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    What story do you want to tell? This is coming from someone who's very much a planner, so if it sounds horrible and boring as all get out you can take it with a grain of salt, but I like to pin down what exactly I want to do with a story well before I start writing. If I don't, I end up at an impasse like the one you're facing where nothing's happening and I don't know what to do.

    What is the story? A fantasy adventure? You want your characters to find a magic sword, fight a dragon, save the kingdom? That's somewhere to start. Where should they find the sword? Or the dragon, for that matter? If you have any sort of idea of what you want to happen, work backwards to figure out what the step you need to take to get there are.

    If you don't really have any inkling of what the story is, that's fine - maybe you're just a pantser, flying by the seat of your pants. But someone else will have to help with that route, because I'm garbage at it.
     
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  3. HistoricalScience
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    HistoricalScience Active Member

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    To add to what Izzybot already covered, do you have a main character? What does that character want or need? What stands in his/her way? Those would be some good questions to consider and then you can go from there.
     
  4. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I'll piggyback on @izzybot 's post. And contrast by saying that I am mostly someone who writes from the cuff. Very little outline and planning. BUT, I won't even begin to write a story until it's framed in my head. I like to know at the very least the inciting incident. From there, I can write and usually come up with an ending. But if I don't have the inciting plot point, I won't waste any time trying to write because I always end up exactly where you are now.

    If you provide more information, we might be able to collectively pin down some solid advice to give you on formulating a plot. As @HistoricalScience has pointed out, a story is nothing without a main character and a solid internal and external desire. The character has to want something for a reader to be engaged. We don't have to agree, but we have to understand.

    ETA: It is also somewhat important to know a relative desired length. Short stories can differ pretty wildly from novels.
     
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  5. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    How about looking at it this way?
    1) Problem
    2) Hurdles to solving problem
    3) Solution (which may not result in the problem ultimately being solved, but concludes the story)

    Example:
    1) Jared wants to ask out the pretty girl behind the counter at the pizza shop
    2) Jared suffers from panic attacks. The girl's brother works there too and hates Jared. Jared's ex-girlfriend also works there.
    3) Jared gets help for his panic attacks, kills the brother in the alleyway behind the store and he and the love interest live happily ever after...unless his ex-girlfriend stabs them both with a knife while they make out in the walk-in freezer or he gets pinned with the murder of the brother.

    Try breaking your story down into at least these three tasks, then further develop key scenes or other things that need to happen in-between. This is outlining or creating a timeline.
     
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  6. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe think of it as practice for writing description, rather than as the narrative of the story itself? I have a bunch of scenes that I'm not going to put in the text itself, but that I still play vividly in my head because I like them for my personal satisfaction with how the characters work.
     
  7. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    How much have you written? A month is a pretty long time to be working on a story where nothing has happened yet. Are we talking 50 pages? Five pages? I am a big believer that story needs to start on page one. It sounds like maybe you didn't start your story in the right place. I don't plan a all when it comes to writing fiction, but I do try to start with something happening. Planner or not, think about the way you tell stories to people in real life. How long could you keep someone's interest without getting into what happened. I find writing to be much the same way. My advice would be to open a new document and start again with something happening. If you hate it, you can go back to what you already have or you can try again. You might very well be able to work in what you already have. And even if you can't, how much use is it to you right now?
     
  8. getlostwithme
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    getlostwithme Member

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    I do plan out my stories but once I get started it always seems like my idea wasn't as good as I thought it was. I have a very odd writing style, in which I like to write short (maybe a page, page and a half) of descriptive, realistic scenes. So there isn't really much of a story, see? I feel like no one wants to read a scene about a man who passes a beautiful women on a street, but that is what interests ME. Any advice on how to make a story like that more exciting?
     
  9. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    You have to think about it in terms of conflict if you're looking to engage readers. We want to see conflict. Most of us don't want to read a small story where nothing happens. If you want to write those, that's fine. I am in no way telling you what you should or shouldn't write. What I'm telling you is that something needs to happen in a story for it to be engaging.

    So we'll take your example of the man passing a beautiful woman on the street.

    The inciting event is passing this beautiful woman. So what does he do? Does he chase after her and try to get her number? Does he stalk her and turn into a total creep? Has she dropped something that he needs to return? Those would be stories. You have an incomplete story. Find a way to work some action in there (and I don't necessarily mean the physical violence kind) show the guy taking action toward the goal that you lay out before him.

    What it really comes down to is desires expressed through action. If your main character wants to get that girl's number, I want you to show me how he does that through the deliberate actions he takes toward that goal: obtaining her phone number.

    Does this make sense, or am I rambling?
     
  10. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    Man passes beautiful woman on the street.

    At that moment he receives a text.

    It's from an unknown number. And it just says:

    Follow that woman.


    From the way you describe your writing style I don't detect anything particularly odd about it. I would have to read an example of your writing to get any understanding of the odd nature you think your style has. But @Spencer1990 is right. You have your inciting event. What you need is a reason to pursue it. It can be as arbitrary as the woman was so beautiful he was compelled to go after her. Or it can be as classic as someone snatches her handbag and your man gives chase and recovers it for her.

    Or the ghost of her dead sister is communicating to your MC through text messages because the woman is in trouble. And it becomes a weird love story, not between the MC and the woman but the MC and the dead sister.
     
  11. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I feel you on ideas never seeming as good once they're on paper. Yeah, "man passes beautiful woman on the street" isn't really an actual story - it's an event, it's a scene, but nothing else. Is there anything else behind this event? Does the woman make him think of his dead wife? Is he on his way to jump off a bridge but seeing this beautiful woman makes him decide life is worth living? Is there subtext about the fleeting, ephemeral nature of human contact? Is it all action and introspection in this one moment, or is there a plot to be found here, more scenes to string together?

    There are definitely ways to beef up something like that, but I don't know if excitement, per se, is what you want. It could be a lovely, well-done vignette or you could work out some plot to give your descriptive scenes some cohesion.
     
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  12. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's possible that what you have is not a short story or a novel, but a poem. Your scenario reminds me of one from the early 1600s, written (or compiled?) by Thomas Ford, that begins

    There is a lady sweet and kind,
    Was never face so pleas'd my mind;
    I did but see her passing by,
    And yet I love her till I die.
    But if you want it to be a story, you have to be willing to give up the static glow of your original image and set things in motion. When I was in high school I got the "perfect" idea for a novel. It would begin with a young girl named Marie looking out a second story window on a rainy day, brooding on how lonely she was in comparison with the people passing by on the street. (I satirized it on a thread we have somewhere around here where we competed to see who could come up with the most gosh-awful novel first sentence/paragraph). I never did anything with it, because what I liked was that sense of end-of-the-world adolescent loneliness the girl was luxuriating in. And for the scene to become a real story, that would have to change. She'd have to meet somebody and become happy, or go do something useful and get over it, or pitch herself out the window and end it all --- something, or there would be no story.

    Similarly, for you to have a plot at all your POV character has to do something about his admiration, like try to meet her. Or the sight of her might affect him in some way that might not have anything directly to do with the lady herself. He could become so discontented that he argues with his present girlfriend, but he has to stay in good with his present girlfriend because x, y, and z. Or maybe the beauty reminds him of all the dreams he's never fulfilled, so he finally takes that road trip he's been swearing he'll go on. What you can't do is let him remain in the moment.

    So if what you love about your idea is the sense of unattainable admiration, keep what you've written as an exercise, and develop some other scene into a novel or short story.

    Actually, from what you tell us, it sounds like a short story would be the ideal format.
     
  13. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    My wife finally gave up on Peter James as an author when reading one of his novels where he includes an entire chapter describing - in step-by-step detail - the MC's journey through Brighton. It was almost certainly very descriptive and very realistic, but (surely) only there because he was 5k words short of target, and deadline was looming.

    My WIP began life as a short story, based around a pop song. When I got to the denouement, it took on a life of its own, and the finale that rounded off the song no longer seemed satisfying, but by now I'd got an MC and a conflict for him to resolve. I still don't know the half of it; whether he'll actually resolve the conflict, whether he lives happily ever after or ends in a police shoot-out; that'll come to me down the line.

    My feeling is that a page-and-a-half of description would bore me to tears. I can still remember reading books where the author felt the need to describe a part of the location in such detail that the reader would know the place as if he was looking at a map...and after a page of that, I had no idea of the location, I'd fallen asleep.

    As I rounded the corner, the vista was spread out before me; a broad meadow fell away ahead, leading down to the pewter sea. On either hand was a row of tents, hemmed in by the hawthorn hedges. Directly ahead, the sunrise reflected dazzlingly off the water.

    How do you drag that out for another page? Now I've set the scene and I can get on with some action; either I head down to the sea and steal a boat, or I spot that gorgeous redhead and 1/ strike up a conversation; 2/ dive into the shower block because I can't get up the courage. If I need/want more description, I'll work it in later.

    Once I'd left the meadow, the path steepened and narrowed until there was barely room to squeeze through - sometimes less, and I ended up with scratches on my hands and arms by the time I reached the narrow width of rather grey sand that formed the beach. High tide, then. And just above the tideline was the boat I was looking for. One of the local fishermen's boats, around sixteen feet long, with a mast and spars stowed inside.
     
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  14. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Read novels of a type and style you aspire to or admire. Then read some more.

    And then have those books by your side when you write. Study them, look at how these writers move the events forward. Maybe they write long descriptive scenes (don't assume it's a bad thing). It's only by reading that you'll see how established and published writers do it.

    It sounds to me like you're not particularly interested in plot. And that's fine, neither am I. And neither are many published writers.
     
  15. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    I suffer from the oposite issue lots of action and fast paced dialogue but with insufficient description - i mean i'm 20 pages in to my current wip and ive already had 3 firefights, a training sequence, and lots of sexual tension between the MC's , but descriptive passages are notable by their absence, other than character thoughts and dialogue
     

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